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Old 03-18-2020, 12:37 PM
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Economic stimulus and Keynes = a contradiction of being "fiscally conservative?"


I don't want this thread to be a debate over the coronavirus or whether fiscal conservatism is good or not, but do want to ask whether things such as Trump sending out $2,000 checks to American households, or using massive economic stimulus, is consistent with being a "fiscal conservative."

Can one call oneself a fiscal conservative while still supporting such things, or are they simply utterly at odds with the term?
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Old 03-18-2020, 01:05 PM
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Most people consider themselves fiscally conservative. Who thinks they waste massive amounts of money on stuff they don't need or won't use? In the political arena I think it's the same.

While I don't agree with the second statement I see nothing at least inconsistent with:

"American families are hurting, we all need $2,000 to help ease the burden"
VS
"People on welfare are lazy and should get a job, they don't need a $2,000 handout".
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Old 03-18-2020, 01:20 PM
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Most people consider themselves fiscally conservative. Who thinks they waste massive amounts of money on stuff they don't need or won't use? In the political arena I think it's the same.

While I don't agree with the second statement I see nothing at least inconsistent with:

"American families are hurting, we all need $2,000 to help ease the burden"
VS
"People on welfare are lazy and should get a job, they don't need a $2,000 handout".
Except that the second statement is disingenuous. It's one thing if they want to scale back the scale of welfare cash transfer payments; it's another to year after year oppose any and everything that might provide some cushion for those who are struggling economically and instead focus on giving tax breaks to people who are absurdly wealthy.

Republicans know - shit, we all know or should know - that billionaires aren't going to reinvest their extra tax savings in hiring people and giving those currently employed raises.
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Old 03-18-2020, 01:40 PM
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When has the Trump administration behaved in ways that would normally be called fiscally conservative? Or the last Bush administration for that matter?

Maybe some tax cuts can be called that. But any spending cuts have targeted programs for ideological reasons, not fiscal ones. At the same time huge increases in military spending occurred, with Congress often ordering more than the Pentagon asked for in order to benefit local companies.

And people have pointed out that the exceptionally low interest rates that were imposed during a soaring economy have left no options for a boost now when they are actually needed. Deficits that would be screamed about under a Democrat are simply ignored when Republicans generate them.

In short, there is no modern ideology of fiscal conservatism. It's irrelevant to ask whether or not any action comports to a non-existent philosophy.
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Old 03-18-2020, 02:36 PM
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When has the Trump administration behaved in ways that would normally be called fiscally conservative? Or the last Bush administration for that matter?
This. Pretty much nothing fiscal conservatives do is consistent with being a "fiscal conservative". Why should they start with their coronavirus response?
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Old 03-18-2020, 02:52 PM
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When has the Trump administration behaved in ways that would normally be called fiscally conservative? Or the last Bush administration for that matter?

Maybe some tax cuts can be called that. But any spending cuts have targeted programs for ideological reasons, not fiscal ones. At the same time huge increases in military spending occurred, with Congress often ordering more than the Pentagon asked for in order to benefit local companies.

And people have pointed out that the exceptionally low interest rates that were imposed during a soaring economy have left no options for a boost now when they are actually needed. Deficits that would be screamed about under a Democrat are simply ignored when Republicans generate them.

In short, there is no modern ideology of fiscal conservatism. It's irrelevant to ask whether or not any action comports to a non-existent philosophy.
My point isn't asking whether Trump is fiscally conservative or not - he clearly isn't. I'm just asking if fiscal stimulus or sending $2,000 to Americans is inherently anti-fiscal-conservative, Trump or no Trump.
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Old 03-18-2020, 02:59 PM
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Christian I ain't, but I keep thinking back to Joseph and the Pharaoh's dream:
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Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile,
18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds.
19 After them, seven other cows came up--scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt.
20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first.
21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
22 "In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk.
23 After them, seven other heads sprouted--withered and thin and scorched by the east wind.
24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me."
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.
26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.
27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.
28 "It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.
29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt,
30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land.
31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe.
32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
33 "And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.
34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.
35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food.
36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine."
This fits with Keynesian economics as I understand it: during times of plenty, tax more, so that in times of need, you have more.
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Old 03-18-2020, 03:14 PM
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My point isn't asking whether Trump is fiscally conservative or not - he clearly isn't. I'm just asking if fiscal stimulus or sending $2,000 to Americans is inherently anti-fiscal-conservative, Trump or no Trump.
The problem is that there is no official definition of what "fiscally conservative" actually means. It, like "family values" or "patriotism", is just a buzzword that gets passed around to say that the proposals you support are right while those of your opponent are wrong.

Last edited by Buck Godot; 03-18-2020 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 03-18-2020, 03:31 PM
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Exactly. The term has no objective meaning these days.

To be fair, most policies feasible in normal times get tossed out the window in a true existential crisis. What would a fiscally conservative solution to a pandemic closing down the country look like even in theory?
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Old 03-18-2020, 03:31 PM
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I don't want this thread to be a debate over the coronavirus or whether fiscal conservatism is good or not, but do want to ask whether things such as Trump sending out $2,000 checks to American households, or using massive economic stimulus, is consistent with being a "fiscal conservative."

Can one call oneself a fiscal conservative while still supporting such things, or are they simply utterly at odds with the term?
LOL, no.

In America we privatize profits and socialize losses. It's been that way since after the Panic of 1907, which led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:02 PM
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My point isn't asking whether Trump is fiscally conservative or not - he clearly isn't. I'm just asking if fiscal stimulus or sending $2,000 to Americans is inherently anti-fiscal-conservative, Trump or no Trump.
If there's data to show that sending checks to everyone will prevent a few down quarters from turning into another Great Depression, it is fiscally conservative to do so. Similarly, when nominal rates are new zero and real rates are below zero, it can be fiscally conservative to issue debt in order to invest in infrastructure to help the long term health of the economy. Similarly, the data shows that keeping children safe, healthy, and educated makes them better taxpayers, so it's fiscally conservative to invest in programs like pre-school, S-CHIP, and the like.

Fiscally conservative doesn't (or shouldn't) mean just not spending money. It means spending money on sensible things, and taxing at a reasonable level to pay for what you've decided to spend.

The programs in 2008 that supported the banks and the auto companies, for example, probably prevented a full-blown depression, so were fiscally conservative in that sense.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:08 PM
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If there's data to show that sending checks to everyone will prevent a few down quarters from turning into another Great Depression, it is fiscally conservative to do so. Similarly, when nominal rates are new zero and real rates are below zero, it can be fiscally conservative to issue debt in order to invest in infrastructure to help the long term health of the economy. Similarly, the data shows that keeping children safe, healthy, and educated makes them better taxpayers, so it's fiscally conservative to invest in programs like pre-school, S-CHIP, and the like.

Fiscally conservative doesn't (or shouldn't) mean just not spending money. It means spending money on sensible things, and taxing at a reasonable level to pay for what you've decided to spend.

The programs in 2008 that supported the banks and the auto companies, for example, probably prevented a full-blown depression, so were fiscally conservative in that sense.
Well, that sure ain't how I've heard the term used. Not that it's ever been presented particularly coherently, but I've certainly never heard it as including a concern for actual consequences.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:10 PM
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If there's data to show that sending checks to everyone will prevent a few down quarters from turning into another Great Depression, it is fiscally conservative to do so. Similarly, when nominal rates are new zero and real rates are below zero, it can be fiscally conservative to issue debt in order to invest in infrastructure to help the long term health of the economy. Similarly, the data shows that keeping children safe, healthy, and educated makes them better taxpayers, so it's fiscally conservative to invest in programs like pre-school, S-CHIP, and the like.

Fiscally conservative doesn't (or shouldn't) mean just not spending money. It means spending money on sensible things, and taxing at a reasonable level to pay for what you've decided to spend.

The programs in 2008 that supported the banks and the auto companies, for example, probably prevented a full-blown depression, so were fiscally conservative in that sense.
I would disagree with your definition. You have basically defined "fiscally conservative" as any combination of actions that work. That is frankly disingenuous. As others have pointed out, the use of the term "fiscally conservative" is purely political, and meant to distinguish one from an opponent.
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Last edited by Icarus; 03-18-2020 at 04:11 PM.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:10 PM
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Well, that sure ain't how I've heard the term used. Not that it's ever been presented particularly coherently, but I've certainly never heard it as including a concern for actual consequences.
Oh, I know it's just virtue signalling in real life, but I'm thinking in terms of what Milton Friedman might get comfortable with.

ETA: Icarus, agreed, but I was trying to answer the OP, where they're not looking for the political definition. So, if I had to figure out what fiscal conservatism should mean, I'd go with my examples as a start.

Last edited by RitterSport; 03-18-2020 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:15 PM
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Oh, I know it's just virtue signalling in real life, but I'm thinking in terms of what Milton Friedman might get comfortable with.
I gather that he was a firm ideological believer in the hand of the free market, and that he would disagree with the rather flagrant government impositions of the government into the market that you propose.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:29 PM
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I gather that he was a firm ideological believer in the hand of the free market, and that he would disagree with the rather flagrant government impositions of the government into the market that you propose.
Paul Krugman, at least, says that Friedman was not an ideologue and was way more flexible than his Republican followers give him credit for. For example:

Quote:
Friedman, however, gave a different answer. He was willing to give a little ground, and admit that government action was indeed necessary to prevent depressions. But the required government action, he insisted, was of a very narrow kind: all you needed was an appropriately active Federal Reserve. In particular, he argued that the Fed could have prevented the Great Depression — with no need for new government programs — if only it had acted to save failing banks and pumped enough reserves into the banking system to prevent a sharp decline in the money supply.
From here: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/12/o...-unperson.html

Anyway, I'm not here to defend Friedman or try and rehabilitate the term "fiscal conservative". I was just trying to point out that "fiscal conservatism" shouldn't mean "lower taxes on corporations, only care about the deficit when a Democrat is in office, and screw the little guy" even though it might mean that in practice.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:32 PM
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To that point, Friedman was the one who coined the famous phrase "We are all Keynesians, now" (many times attributed to Richard Nixon) upon noting that in times of economic distress, regardless of ideology, people turn towards the government to prime the (money) pump.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:43 PM
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Well, if the goal is to utterly ignore the current meaning of the words fis-cal con-serv-a-tis-m and redefine them base on the policies of Milton Friedman, then it might be instructive to refer to his position on paying for schooling. (Since you brought that up, and all.)

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Originally Posted by the all-knowing wikipeida
In his 1955 article "The Role of Government in Education"[86] Friedman proposed supplementing publicly operated schools with privately run but publicly funded schools through a system of school vouchers.[87] Reforms similar to those proposed in the article were implemented in, for example, Chile in 1981 and Sweden in 1992.[88] In 1996, Friedman, together with his wife, founded the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice to advocate school choice and vouchers. In 2016, the Friedman Foundation changed its name to EdChoice to honor the Friedmans' desire to have the educational choice movement live on without their names attached to it after their deaths.[15]
So. Milton was, at least in one case, okay with distributing government funds to private individuals to allow them to employ choice as a market force in supporting which institutions they wanted to support. Given that, he might also be okay with just handing everybody cash and letting them stimulate the market as they will - meaning that at least the $2000 checks described in the OP would be "fiscally conservative" under our shiny new definition.

Whether a "massive economic stimulus" would qualify would probably depend on how it was implemented.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:56 PM
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I don't want this thread to be a debate over the coronavirus or whether fiscal conservatism is good or not, but do want to ask whether things such as Trump sending out $2,000 checks to American households, or using massive economic stimulus, is consistent with being a "fiscal conservative."
I think such a measure as you have described is misguided, but it is possible to reconcile short-term stimulus spending with long-term austerity measures. I doubt there are many at this point who disagree with Keynes in the short term.

For example, a fiscal conservative might pair a one-time stimulus package with so many years of some marginal tax.

As to whether our elected officials are fiscal conservatives... hah!

~Max
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Old 03-18-2020, 05:12 PM
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I think such a measure as you have described is misguided, but it is possible to reconcile short-term stimulus spending with long-term austerity measures. I doubt there are many at this point who disagree with Keynes in the short term.
Oh, there is an unfortunate flavor of fiscal conservatism which is built on supply-side economic theory. For an adherent of such an ideology, short-term stimulus spending might be offset by long-term increased tax revenue from well placed tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks.

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Old 03-18-2020, 07:44 PM
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"Fiscal conservatism" might reasonably be defined as "not spending more than you take in". Governments aren't business enterprises, so there's no reason for them to be spending a lot less than they take in--governments aren't supposed to be making a profit--and given their unique powers over the supply of money (they can "print" more of the stuff) it's not too un-conservative for a sovereign state to maybe run a little bit of a deficit. If there's some enormous crisis--World War II, Martians invading, a comet hitting Planet Earth, a global pandemic--even a pretty staunch "fiscal conservative" might be OK with borrowing quite a lot of money. More controversially, many would argue that it's OK to borrow even quite a lot of money during an economic contraction. I'm using terms like "a lot" or "a little bit" here; those are relative terms, and instead of talking about dollar amounts (or euro amounts or yen amounts) we should probably look at percentages.

So, courtesy of the folks in Langley, we have a list of the budget revenues and expenditures of the various countries of Planet Earth, and also a list of the "size of the economy" of each country, that is, its GDP (on an official exchange rate basis, not purchasing-power parity, since the other list is calculated on an official exchange rate basis).

Some "fiscally conservative" countries:

Canada
revenues: 649.6 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 665.7 billion (2017 est.)
GDP: 1.653 trillion (2017 est.)
(a small deficit of just under 1% of GDP)

Denmark
revenues: 172.5 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 168.9 billion (2017 est.)
GDP: 325.6 billion (2017 est.)
(a modest surplus of about 1% of GDP)

Finland
revenues: 134.2 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 135.6 billion (2017 est.)
GDP 252.8 billion (2017 est.)
(a deficit of a little over one half of a percent of GDP)

Germany
revenues: 1.665 trillion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 1.619 trillion (2017 est.)
GDP: 3.701 trillion (2017 est.)
(a surplus of nearly 1.25% of GDP)

Norway
revenues: 217.1 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 199.5 billion (2017 est.)
GDP: 398.8 billion (2017 est.)
(a surplus of well over 4% of GDP, which is kind of huge, really. Geeze, Norway, live it up a little!)

Sweden
revenues: 271.2 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 264.4 billion (2017 est.)
GDP: 535.6 billion (2017 est.)
(a surplus of nearly 1.27% of GDP)

Note that many would call several of those countries "socialist", especially the Scandinavian and Nordic ones (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden), but all of them are actually fundamentally capitalist--there are sectors which are nationalized (I believe Norway's oil industry is state owned) but for the most part the "means of production" are NOT collectively owned or owned by the state; rather, most goods and services are provided by privately-owned for-profit businesses. Certainly Germany is textbook example of a dynamic modern capitalist economy.

Now, for a country that is NOT fiscally conservative:

United States
revenues: 3.315 trillion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 3.981 trillion (2017 est.)
note: revenues exclude social contributions of approximately $1.0 trillion; expenditures exclude social benefits of approximately $2.3 trillion
doing the math the U.S. federal government likes to put in a footnote
total revenues: 4.415 trillion
total expenditures: 6.281 trillion
GDP: 19.49 trillion (2017 est.)
(a deficit of over 9.5% of GDP)

What's more, these are all 2017 numbers. From The Washington Post from late last year U.S. budget deficits were expected to be high and increasing before the pandemic, and the sharp economic downturn we're about to see as a result of efforts to combat it. That was a result, fundamentally, of the policies of the Republican Party, all by themselves--they only lost control of the House of Representatives in the elections of November 2018.

Bottom line: The party that claims to be "fiscally conservative" in reality has the spending habits of the proverbial drunken sailor.

Also: "Fiscal conservatism" has nothing much to do with the size of the government as such, or with the size of the social safety net. (Afghanistan had 2017 revenues of 2.276 billion against expenditures of 5.328 billion, on a 20.24 billion GDP, a deficit of a bit more than 15% of the national economy. I've never heard anyone raving about their national healthcare system or family leave policies. Of course they've got that whole "four decades of hideously destructive wars" thing going.)

Bottom bottom line: We don't need to nationalize the means of production in the U.S.A. Roll back the idiotic Trump tax cuts for the very wealthy1. Raise the Social Security payroll tax cap1. Stop the Endless Land Wars in Asia (which, in addition to costing a hell of a lot of money, have also gotten untold numbers of people--including many Americans--killed and maimed, and are not only stupid but also fundamentally immoral), and don't get us involved in any new Endless Land Wars in Asia. Those would all be a good start on true "fiscal conservatism".

1Of course now we're up against it fiscally speaking, headed for--at the very least--a recession, and maybe a full-on global depression, and really don't need to be doing anything that could hit the brakes on the economy right now. Oopsie! Thanks, GOP!
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Old 03-19-2020, 01:35 AM
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Paul Krugman, at least, says that Friedman was not an ideologue and was way more flexible than his Republican followers give him credit for. For example:
Quote:
But the required government action, [Friedman] insisted, was of a very narrow kind: all you needed was an appropriately active Federal Reserve. In particular, he argued that the Fed could have prevented the Great Depression — with no need for new government programs — if only it had acted to save failing banks and pumped enough reserves into the banking system to prevent a sharp decline in the money supply.
While Krugman's sentiments are valid — at least in the same trivial way that a cobra snake is less venemous than a black mamba — the words of Krugman that RitterSport quotes paint the exact opposite conclusion from that which RitterSport manages to draw! The quote specifically contradicts the idea that Friedman had any interest in fiscal stimulus.
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Old 03-19-2020, 05:39 AM
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I don't want this thread to be a debate over the coronavirus or whether fiscal conservatism is good or not, but do want to ask whether things such as Trump sending out $2,000 checks to American households, or using massive economic stimulus, is consistent with being a "fiscal conservative."

Can one call oneself a fiscal conservative while still supporting such things, or are they simply utterly at odds with the term?
Four points:

1) From a high-level view, the economic stimulus payments aren’t fiscally conservative. They’re a drastic response to a drastic situation.

2) Fiscal conservatism is a set of principles, not a single iron-clad rule. The question in the OP is a bit like asking if it’s a contradiction for someone who believes in non-violence to use force to protect their children from a physical attack.

3) One of the principles of fiscal conservatives is that spending decisions are better made by individuals than the government. So providing funds to individuals rather than a massive direct government spending program is consistent with that principle.

4) Fiscal conservatism isn’t a plan to not spend money. It’s a concept of spending money effectively, balancing government spending against revenues, prioritising investment over cash transfers, limiting taxes in order to enable the private sector, and planning for the long-term via incremental changes rather than sweeping ones. I haven’t seen any cost-benefit analysis from the Treasury Department or forecasting models comparing stimulus and non-stimulus scenarios. I’d hope economists in the US government are generating them and the government leadership is looking at them. It’s quite possible that an analytic review of the economic stimulus payments shows that they’re better off for the long-term economy than not providing them. If so, the payments are consistent with other principles of fiscal conservatism, even if they are outside the overall general concept.
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Old 03-19-2020, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners View Post
Fiscal conservatism [is] a concept of spending money effectively, balancing government spending against revenues, prioritising investment ... It’s quite possible that an analytic review of the economic stimulus payments shows that they’re better off for the long-term economy than not providing them. If so, the payments are consistent with other principles of fiscal conservatism...
You consider yourself a "fiscal conservative"; did I guess right, Wrenching Spanners? What's your definition of "fiscal liberal" one wonders? Maybe "One eager to waste money on transfers to the lazy; someone proposing high taxes but unaware that they will stifle business and innovation."

But let's avoid Humpty-Dumptyism, ok? Think of another name for your fiscal philosophy; in present-day American dialect, "fiscal conservative" means "someone who is tired of teh gummint stealing his money; who favors the Starve the Beast agenda, cutting taxes in all circumstances; someone happy to squeeze the poor and other undeserving folk."

Is my definition hyperbolic to make a political point? Sure. So is yours.
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Old 03-19-2020, 08:43 AM
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You consider yourself a "fiscal conservative"; did I guess right, Wrenching Spanners? What's your definition of "fiscal liberal" one wonders? Maybe "One eager to waste money on transfers to the lazy; someone proposing high taxes but unaware that they will stifle business and innovation."

But let's avoid Humpty-Dumptyism, ok? Think of another name for your fiscal philosophy; in present-day American dialect, "fiscal conservative" means "someone who is tired of teh gummint stealing his money; who favors the Starve the Beast agenda, cutting taxes in all circumstances; someone happy to squeeze the poor and other undeserving folk."

Is my definition hyperbolic to make a political point? Sure. So is yours.
Your rant is off-topic, and indeed off-thread, and normally I would just ignore the blather. However, I will answer one question for you. My definition of a fiscal liberal is someone to the left of me who has more progressive politics, but still believes in government restraint, budgets that eventually balance, and fiscal policies based on math instead of impulsive emotional outbreaks and fairy dust. Basically, intelligent centre-left types as opposed to the other sort such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the backers of the Green New Deal. Tying this post back to the OP, I think fiscal liberals would probably back Trump’s ideas for economic stimulus payments, but they’d like to see the figures that justify them, and the future effects on US federal spending and revenues. As for the far-left economically-illiterate liberals? I imagine they’re in conniptions over the conflict between automatically opposing anything Trump says or does and the circumstance that they would support the payments if they were coming from President Obama, and those liberals are generating bile due to their emotional conflict.
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Old 03-19-2020, 08:49 AM
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Your rant is off-topic, and indeed off-thread, and normally I would just ignore the blather. However, I will answer one question for you. My definition of a fiscal liberal is someone to the left of me who has more progressive politics, but still believes in government restraint, budgets that eventually balance, and fiscal policies based on math instead of impulsive emotional outbreaks and fairy dust. Basically, intelligent centre-left types as opposed to the other sort such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the backers of the Green New Deal. Tying this post back to the OP, I think fiscal liberals would probably back Trump’s ideas for economic stimulus payments, but they’d like to see the figures that justify them, and the future effects on US federal spending and revenues. As for the far-left economically-illiterate liberals? I imagine they’re in conniptions over the conflict between automatically opposing anything Trump says or does and the circumstance that they would support the payments if they were coming from President Obama, and those liberals are generating bile due to their emotional conflict.
Your analysis of "far left liberals" seems derived from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. It certainly doesn't match me (if you count supporting politicians like Bernie and AOC as qualifying me) and the vast majority of the Bernie/AOC/etc. supporters that I know. In this kind of emergency it's trivially easy to support a stimulus and emergency relief, even coming from Trump, at the same time as advocating that far more should be done than what has been offered so far (as well as recognizing the many massive failures of the Trump administration in preparing for this emergency).
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Old 03-19-2020, 09:50 AM
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Christian I ain't, but I keep thinking back to Joseph and the Pharaoh's dream:

This fits with Keynesian economics as I understand it: during times of plenty, tax more, so that in times of need, you have more.
This is not Keynesian economics. In Keynesian, during slow times the government borrows to spend. In the theory, this will prime the pump and restore the private sector's faith in the economy which will then began to grow again since whatever spooked the economy will have passed. Keynesian economics is designed to fix demand shocks and famine is a classic supply shock.

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Old 03-19-2020, 09:51 AM
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Your analysis of "far left liberals" seems derived from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. It certainly doesn't match me (if you count supporting politicians like Bernie and AOC as qualifying me) and the vast majority of the Bernie/AOC/etc. supporters that I know. In this kind of emergency it's trivially easy to support a stimulus and emergency relief, even coming from Trump, at the same time as advocating that far more should be done than what has been offered so far (as well as recognizing the many massive failures of the Trump administration in preparing for this emergency).
Thanks. I should have realised that the far-left liberal solution to their conundrum of agreeing with Trump would be to want to spend even more. I'd ask how you plan to pay for the additional spending, but I don't want to turn this thread into a debate on a wealth tax or some other form of soaking the rich.
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Old 03-19-2020, 09:57 AM
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Paul Krugman, at least, says that Friedman was not an ideologue and was way more flexible than his Republican followers give him credit for. For example:



From here: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/12/o...-unperson.html

Anyway, I'm not here to defend Friedman or try and rehabilitate the term "fiscal conservative". I was just trying to point out that "fiscal conservatism" shouldn't mean "lower taxes on corporations, only care about the deficit when a Democrat is in office, and screw the little guy" even though it might mean that in practice.
What the fed could have done to save the country from the Great Depression was not being more active. There is no such thing as a passive or active monetary policy, only appropriate and inappropriate. Friedman was therefore not asking for a more active role for the government or the Fed but for the Fed to do its job better.
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Old 03-19-2020, 10:18 AM
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Fiscal conservativism is not just no deficits, it means that the government spends as little as necessary and only taxes enough to cover its spending in the least distortionary way possible.

Economic stimulus can be fiscally conservative if there really is a demand shock and not a supply problem. The sudden loss of employment from people in the hospitality industry qualifies as a demand shock so it could be fiscally conservative to send checks to everyone to temporarily goose demand.
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Old 03-19-2020, 12:39 PM
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Your rant is off-topic, and indeed off-thread, and normally I would just ignore the blather....
Blather? You wrote this:
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Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners
It’s quite possible that an analytic review of the economic stimulus payments shows that they’re better off for the long-term economy than not providing them. If so, the payments are consistent with other principles of fiscal conservatism
Here you effectively define "fiscal conservative" as someone who "analytic[ally] reviews [probable outcomes to maximize] the long-term economy." TL;DR: "A fiscal conservative is someone smarter than a liberal." Sorry. This Humpty-Dumptyist arrogation of a definition is smug and pretentious word-play.
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Old 03-19-2020, 03:22 PM
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Fiscal conservativism is not just no deficits, it means that the government spends as little as necessary and only taxes enough to cover its spending in the least distortionary way possible.

Economic stimulus can be fiscally conservative if there really is a demand shock and not a supply problem. The sudden loss of employment from people in the hospitality industry qualifies as a demand shock so it could be fiscally conservative to send checks to everyone to temporarily goose demand.
Yes, pretty much this. Rapid government bloat paid for with higher taxes on the citizenry is not 'fiscal conservatism', even if it doesn't result in deficits. Fiscal conservatism is about being a good steward of the public's money. Avoiding huge deficits is just one part of it.

A fiscal conservative might even argue that a good reason for fiscal conservatism is so that the government has room to spend during times of real emergencies. If you suddenly need to prop up the economy during a pandemic or prepare for a war, it's a lot easier if you have a surplus budget and a small debt. It's also easier to stimulate the economy if you haven't already goosed it with artificially low interest rates and huge money pumps during the good times to eake out another few tenths of percent of growth, as Bush, Obama and Trump have all done.

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  #33  
Old 03-19-2020, 04:05 PM
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Fiscal conservatism isn’t a plan to not spend money. It’s a concept of spending money effectively, balancing government spending against revenues, prioritising investment over cash transfers, limiting taxes in order to enable the private sector, and planning for the long-term via incremental changes rather than sweeping ones. I haven’t seen any cost-benefit analysis from the Treasury Department or forecasting models comparing stimulus and non-stimulus scenarios. I’d hope economists in the US government are generating them and the government leadership is looking at them. It’s quite possible that an analytic review of the economic stimulus payments shows that they’re better off for the long-term economy than not providing them. If so, the payments are consistent with other principles of fiscal conservatism, even if they are outside the overall general concept.
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Here you effectively define "fiscal conservative" as someone who "analytic[ally] reviews [probable outcomes to maximize] the long-term economy." TL;DR: "A fiscal conservative is someone smarter than a liberal." Sorry. This Humpty-Dumptyist arrogation of a definition is smug and pretentious word-play.
My counter-response:
The US economy is going to undergo severe contraction during the second quarter of 2020. There may be some bounceback during the third and fourth quarters of 2020, but US GDP for 2020 will almost surely be lower than for 2019. The economic stimulus payments are meant to reduce the second quarter contraction and support the bounceback. In my opinion, that’s sound economic policy. However, I don’t believe the payments fall under the umbrella of the general concept of fiscal conservatism. Drastic measures don’t coincide with a keep-it-steady approach.

However, a different way of looking at the economic stimulus payments is to try to compare their forecasted long-term effect against the forecasts if no action was taken. These forecasts would have to account for the costs of the economic stimulus payments which will mean an increased government deficit, higher debt payments, and eventual reduced future spending. The news I read had the payments being announced by the US Treasury Secretary.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-po...mulus-package/
I’m presuming that economists at the Treasury Department were creating and reviewing models and forecasts of the economic stimulus measures prior to the announcement. It’s more or less their job to do so.

I haven’t seen any details regarding the Treasury Department’s economic forecasts regarding stimulus vs no-stimulus. If the forecast is that the long-term economic effect of a stimulus package would be worse off than the long-term effect of doing nothing, then the decision to implement a stimulus package anyway would not be a fiscally conservative decision. It would be one based on political or emotional considerations. However, if the long-term economic effect is better off, then it falls under the principle of planning for the long-term. So while the economic stimulus payments wouldn’t adhere to the general concept of fiscal conservatism, they wouldn’t be “simply utterly at odds” with all the underlying principles of the concept.
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Old 03-21-2020, 02:03 AM
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My objection was not to your prescription. Had you written "I consider myself a fiscal conservative but I would advocate ..." I'd probably have replied with agreement.

My objection was to the way you usurped the term "fiscal conservative." Exaggerating slightly to make my point clear, you implied that "A fiscal conservative is someone who carefully analyzes future developments; someone who is flexible emough to choose the best ..." Blah blah blah. Presumably inn contrast to "a fiscal liberal, who jumps reflexively without careful reflection ..."

Yes, I know I'm putting words in your mouth in exaggeration; but I do it to ensure my point is clear. You have, in effect, defined fiscal conservative as someone who is smarter than others. What's the term for that sort of debate tactic?
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Old 03-21-2020, 08:42 AM
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Fiscal conservativism is not just no deficits, it means that the government spends as little as necessary and only taxes enough to cover its spending in the least distortionary way possible.
I basically agree but it's important to point out that what republicans are advocating now goes against conservative fiscal orthodoxy. If you look at recessions in the 19th Century, any stimulus came from the private sector. The governmental response was more in the form of debt forgiveness and appropriations to underwrite the construction of infrastructure. In the Panic of 1857, there was emphasis on reforming the system but no relief for individuals. There was expansion of money supply in later recessions that century (1873-1896), but that was more in the form of monetary policy, not direct cash transfers or direct stimulus. Even during the Depression, Hoover inexplicably taxed and imposed tariffs while largely resisting the urge to have direct payments to households. Had he done the opposite, he would have forever changed the course of political history.

Quote:
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Economic stimulus can be fiscally conservative if there really is a demand shock and not a supply problem. The sudden loss of employment from people in the hospitality industry qualifies as a demand shock so it could be fiscally conservative to send checks to everyone to temporarily goose demand.
If you really believe the markets will fix the problem, you let the invisible hand do its thing. To intervene is to acknowledge that markets fail under certain circumstances, and that there are times when the strong arm of government is required in order to prevent an economic crisis from becoming a political crisis - that's why governments get involved.

Last edited by asahi; 03-21-2020 at 08:43 AM.
  #36  
Old 03-22-2020, 12:54 PM
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I basically agree but it's important to point out that what republicans are advocating now goes against conservative fiscal orthodoxy. If you look at recessions in the 19th Century, any stimulus came from the private sector. The governmental response was more in the form of debt forgiveness and appropriations to underwrite the construction of infrastructure. In the Panic of 1857, there was emphasis on reforming the system but no relief for individuals. There was expansion of money supply in later recessions that century (1873-1896), but that was more in the form of monetary policy, not direct cash transfers or direct stimulus. Even during the Depression, Hoover inexplicably taxed and imposed tariffs while largely resisting the urge to have direct payments to households. Had he done the opposite, he would have forever changed the course of political history.



If you really believe the markets will fix the problem, you let the invisible hand do its thing. To intervene is to acknowledge that markets fail under certain circumstances, and that there are times when the strong arm of government is required in order to prevent an economic crisis from becoming a political crisis - that's why governments get involved.
The correct response to a recession is to match the response to the cause. If the problem is monetary then a monetary response is appropriate and since government control the monetary supply it necessarily means governmental response. If the problem is a supply shock than there is very little a government can do. The great depression showed how little fiscal stimulus does. Hoover doubled the federal budget and that did not work, since the problem was not a lack of demand but a lack of money and worry about Germany.

In the current situation, the there is nothing that can be done to prevent a recession but many think that fiscal stimulus will allow the status quo ante to be restored once the quarantines are broken. Since this is an unprecedented circumstance, the labels of fiscally conservative vs liberal mean very little.
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Old 03-22-2020, 07:08 PM
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Ah yes, Trump the fiscal conservative, whose gone bankrupt 4 times, increased the deficit by $3 trillion in as many years- and when confronted by his advisors with charts showing a fiscal crisis in 2024, said, “Yeah but i won’t be here.”
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Old 03-22-2020, 09:09 PM
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"Fiscal Conservatism" does not equate to "fiscally responsible" nor anything to do with Keynesian economics. Fiscal conservative is a nice sounding term but not an economic one, or wasn't anyway. IIRC it became popular about 20 years ago as a way to justify supply side voodoo-nomics, big corporate tax cuts, top 5% tax cuts, unfunded medicare programs thrown out to senior citizens and cut funding to the welfare queens/public schools/food programs/health programs and anything else the wealthy didn't benefit from.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:06 PM
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The two real fiscal conservative in recent US history were somewhat ironically George HW Bush and Bill Clinton. The former agreed to a deal which broke his promise about raising taxes and the latter made a very conscious choice of deficit reduction over a big public investment push early in his first term. Ultimately it was Clinton who with a combination of tax increases and defense spending cuts along with domestic spending restraint actually managed to balance the budget.

Not coincidentally this was an an era of relatively high interest rates which put pressure on politicians not to allow deficits to get truly out of control. By contrast the relatively low interest rates of the 21st century has made deficit reduction much less urgent. There is a decent case to be made that this is the right time for a once-in-a-generation deficit financed big push towards a low carbon infrastructure system. A Green New Deal so to speak though led by people who actually understand economics and technology rather than the likes of AOC.
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Old 03-23-2020, 04:58 PM
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I've never seen a definition of 'fiscal conservative' that wasn't either a Humpty Dumpty one like Wrenching Spanners tried to use, or that doesn't apply at all to modern conservatives. I would say that a 'fiscal conservative' under any reasonable definition of the term would strongly favor paying less for healthcare that provides more benefits for more people (including early detection and treatment of a pandemic), but as far as I've seen 'fiscal conservatives' angrily resist any kind of Universal Health Care plan.

If 'fiscal conservative' just means something like 'doesn't want to spend money helping poor people, often likes to spend money to hurt poor people and minorities, is fine spending masses of money on rich people and foreign wars, and whines about the deficit when democrats are in power' then a lot of Republicans are fiscally conservative. But I don't think that's the definition anyone who says they're fiscally conservative wants to use.
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Old 03-23-2020, 07:16 PM
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If 'fiscal conservative' just means something like 'doesn't want to spend money helping poor people, often likes to spend money to hurt poor people and minorities, is fine spending masses of money on rich people and foreign wars, and whines about the deficit when democrats are in power' then a lot of Republicans are fiscally conservative. But I don't think that's the definition anyone who says they're fiscally conservative wants to use.
"Fiscal conservative" sounds great but the reality is it stands for your definition.

I called myself a fiscal conservative, until I understood what it actually stood for. Since that time 15-20 years ago, I use the term "fiscally responsible" since "fiscal conservatives" want handouts to big corporates and the top 5%, and everyone else are on their own.
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Old 03-24-2020, 01:19 PM
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I've never seen a definition of 'fiscal conservative' that wasn't either a Humpty Dumpty one like Wrenching Spanners tried to use, or that doesn't apply at all to modern conservatives. I would say that a 'fiscal conservative' under any reasonable definition of the term would strongly favor paying less for healthcare that provides more benefits for more people (including early detection and treatment of a pandemic), but as far as I've seen 'fiscal conservatives' angrily resist any kind of Universal Health Care plan.

If 'fiscal conservative' just means something like 'doesn't want to spend money helping poor people, often likes to spend money to hurt poor people and minorities, is fine spending masses of money on rich people and foreign wars, and whines about the deficit when democrats are in power' then a lot of Republicans are fiscally conservative. But I don't think that's the definition anyone who says they're fiscally conservative wants to use.
Feel free to use Wikipedia’s definition of a fiscal conservative if you prefer it to mine: “A political and economic philosophy regarding fiscal policy and fiscal responsibility advocating low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes and privatization are the defining qualities of fiscal conservatism.” By that definition, the economic stimulus payment raised in the OP are not fiscally conservative as they represent increased government spending. See post #23, point 1.

However, the question from the OP is: “Can one call oneself a fiscal conservative while still supporting such things, or are they simply utterly at odds with the term?” My reading of the question is that it is asking whether a broader view of fiscal conservatism supports “drastic measures for drastic times”, “paying now to avoid paying more later”, or a preference of pragmatism over orthodoxy. In support of the drastic measures argument, I'll note the fiscal conservative George H. W. Bush chose to go to war with Iraq over the invasion of Kuwait, and the fiscal conservative Margaret Thatcher chose to go to war with Argentina over the invasion of the Falkland Islands. Both of those decisions fall outside the bounds of traditional fiscal conservatism. The fiscal interventions being taken as a result of Coronavirus quarantines seem less controversial than either of those two decisions since the majority of governments of developed countries, regardless of their party leadership, are making those interventions. “Paying now to avoid paying more later” is even easier. In normal times, it’s called maintenance. I hope you’ll agree that it’s more fiscally responsible to spend money each year keeping a keeping a bridge in a good state, than letting the bridge fall into disrepair and suddenly requiring a new bridge. I’m aware that both the US and the UK have issues with their infrastructure maintenance budgets. I reject the idea that avoiding maintenance costs now and forcing higher costs later is fiscal conservatism. Feel free to label that as Humpty-Dumptyism if you want. I’ve already noted that Fiscal Conservatism is a set of principles, not a single iron-clad rule. See post #23, point 2. On pragmatism, conservative philosophy is generally reduced to the truism “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The corollary to that is that if it is broke, do fix it. I hope you agree that the Coronavirus is causing serious worldwide disruption, aka a “broke” circumstance. If you’d like to learn more about modern conservative philosophy and its background and thoughts on how it relates to pragmatism, here’s a very good essay: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/c...odConSidOakScr

So which principals of fiscal conservatism that I’m espousing are you rejecting? It’s easy to make a caricature of the ideas of people you disagree with. See post #28. Do you have an actual definition of fiscal conservatism that is a non-caricature? You can equate Trumpist doctrine or Bush II doctrine with fiscal conservatism, but that’s like saying that Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Jeremy Corbyn are fiscal liberals. I’m basically saying that I believe that the economic stimulus payments raised in the OP are consistent with a centre-right, fiscally responsible economic philosophy that I would label as fiscal conservatism. Feel free to disagree with me, and I’ll readily bet that you can easily find low-hanging fruit of right-wingers claiming to be fiscal conservatives while supporting tax cuts and opposing spending cuts. However, it’s even easier to find examples of the US or UK far-left claiming to be the true left and then being rejected by more moderate voters. The question should be, do those US citizens who identify as fiscal conservatives as a group oppose economic stimulus payments, or is it consistent with their general economic principals. I’m confident that it’s the latter.
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Old 03-24-2020, 03:26 PM
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Feel free to use Wikipedia’s definition of a fiscal conservative
I won't, because it excludes the actual people who claim to be fiscal conservatives and the people they vote into power and support.

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So which principals of fiscal conservatism that I’m espousing are you rejecting?
Real simple test that I laid out above: do you support UHC? If no, then you're not actually fiscally conservative in any meaningful sense, as you simply want to spend massively more money for massive worse outcomes as long as poor people are worse off. Spending more money for worse outcomes is just not 'fiscally conservative' if the words are supposed to have any real meaning.

Quote:
It’s easy to make a caricature of the ideas of people you disagree with. See post #28. Do you have an actual definition of fiscal conservatism that is a non-caricature?
It's easy to whine that people making accurate observations of you an your ilk are making 'caricatures'. It's not true though, and highlights why having discussions with any type of 'conservative' is usually so non-productive - any discussion of the many negative things 'conservative' ideas result in when it's applied to the real world is dismissed as a 'caricature'.

Quote:
You can equate Trumpist doctrine or Bush II doctrine with fiscal conservatism,
And I will, because they are the actual examples of fiscal conservatism in action that exist in the real world. You're trying to define the people that 'fiscal conservatives' in the real world vote into office and support the policies of as not fiscally conservative, and that's just nonsense - if your ultra-positive definition excludes the bulk of people who call themselves fiscally conservative, then it's clearly not a meaningful or useful one. Fiscal conservatives keep voting these guys into power and talking about how great they are, so I'm going to consider them examples of what fiscal conservatives want.
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Old 03-25-2020, 03:56 AM
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I won't, because it excludes the actual people who claim to be fiscal conservatives and the people they vote into power and support.



Real simple test that I laid out above: do you support UHC? If no, then you're not actually fiscally conservative in any meaningful sense, as you simply want to spend massively more money for massive worse outcomes as long as poor people are worse off. Spending more money for worse outcomes is just not 'fiscally conservative' if the words are supposed to have any real meaning.



It's easy to whine that people making accurate observations of you an your ilk are making 'caricatures'. It's not true though, and highlights why having discussions with any type of 'conservative' is usually so non-productive - any discussion of the many negative things 'conservative' ideas result in when it's applied to the real world is dismissed as a 'caricature'.



And I will, because they are the actual examples of fiscal conservatism in action that exist in the real world. You're trying to define the people that 'fiscal conservatives' in the real world vote into office and support the policies of as not fiscally conservative, and that's just nonsense - if your ultra-positive definition excludes the bulk of people who call themselves fiscally conservative, then it's clearly not a meaningful or useful one. Fiscal conservatives keep voting these guys into power and talking about how great they are, so I'm going to consider them examples of what fiscal conservatives want.
Well thanks for your input Humpty-Dumpty.

Oh, and by the way, I do support Universal Health Care. I agree that it economically more effective to have everyone paying into a system than to try to go through an actuarial process that tries to put a price on an individual's health-care requirements based on age, health risks, and God knows how many other factors, especially since the price keeps going up after the typical individual's income has plateaued, or in the case of many retirees diminished. Thanks for reinforcing my point that fiscal conservatives believe in cost-effectiveness and looking at the long-term picture. You'll recall that those two principles are why the economic stimulus payments discussed in the OP aren't "utterly at odds" with the concept of fiscal conservatism.
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